In my family, we tell stories. We tell the same stories, and we tell them over and over.

Stick around awhile and you’ll hear some funny ones, like the time my sister told me I could run faster with my eyes closed, and I wound up in the ER with a big gash in my forehead.

Or weird ones, like the time a bolt of lightning came down my great-grandmother’s chimney when she was comforting a nervous dog during a thunderstorm. She was fine, but the lightning killed the dog in her lap.

We even have stories about stories, like the one about Mrs. Lucking, my fourth-grade teacher, who would make a room full of terrified 9-year-olds sit silently at their desks while she recounted how she had once danced with the late President John F. Kennedy.

Everybody in the family has heard them, but we still laugh when we hear them again. Most of us do, anyway. Some just roll their eyes.

Let me tell you about Meetinghouse.

It’s a new feature in the Maine Sunday Telegram that gives readers a place to tell their stories.

It works like this. At the start of the month we will propose a topic and ask people to write a short, true story from their own lives on that theme.

These are common ideas like “Work” or “A Lesson,” the kind of thing that most people have experienced in their lives, but in different ways. We’re looking for roughly 200 to 500 words (one to two pages if you double space). Include a photo and a one-sentence description of yourself.

At the start of the next month, we’ll publish some of them in the Telegram and encourage people to go online to read more. The next month there will be a new prompt, and a new batch of stories to read.

As the months pass, the online archive will develop into a picture of life in Maine that grows deeper and more nuanced than what you usually see on the opinion page.

November’s topic is “Heading Home.” You can start sending your responses right away to [email protected], and we will publish the first batch on Sunday, Dec. 2.

I don’t expect these stories to be political, but this project comes out of my growing concern about our politics.

I deal with various forms of commentary every day and I expect there to be conflict. But I see a lot of people who talk past each other, latching on to what they already agree with, and accepting shallow stereotypes about people who don’t think exactly like them.

More troubling, no one seems to feel understood. That worries me, because I used to see the newspaper as a handy tool for readers to learn about other people and understand them better. I think it would be great if we could all put aside our politics once a month and see how much we have in common.

I don’t want to shy away from controversy, and if anybody wants to write a scathing letter to the editor or a thoughtful analysis of a pressing issue, we want to see it. Forums like Voice of the People and Maine Voices are not going away.

But it might make for better arguments if we had an idea of who we were arguing with. It’s worth a try, anyway.

Stories are powerful. Our ability to turn sights, sounds and emotions into words is the structure of our lives. Our ability to turn other people’s words into pictures that we can see in our minds makes everything we do possible. By some form of storytelling, large groups of strangers – without ever actually being in the same place at the same time – can build a cathedral, root for a baseball team or make all the pieces of an automobile.

We are wired to like stories. Telling them is probably the oldest form of entertainment and still the best.

So, please, look at the topics list and see if anything there sparks you to tell a story from your own life.

Bang it out and send it to us. Everybody is listening.

Meetinghouse is a community storytelling project hosted by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Read more stories from Maine at www.pressherald.com/meetinghouse